Let me start by stating something obvious: in the last decade, technology has transformed from a tool that we use to a place where we live. If we’re setting out to change the character of technology in our lives, we’d be wise to learn from the character of places.
Tokoro is used to describe the location or site of something, but it is also used to describe a state of being. In Japan, the idea of place is indistinguishable from the historical, cultural, social, and other connections contained within it. The idea of tokoro therefore implies the idea of context, as the place is inevitably connected with all the activities around it.
Being a designer, space obviously plays an existential role in my professional life, so naturally, I’m always happy to broaden my horizon with new ways of thinking about this subject matter. Like with Sekki, Wabi-Sabi, Ikigai and Shikake the Japanese have some interesting perspectives to offer.¹
Deriving from the foundational traditions of Shinto and Buddhism, the Japanese idea of space does not only seek to describe spatial set-ups but tends to focus on the connection between its occupants as well as the interplay of humans, the environment, and society at large.
The essay The Japanese words for “space” could change your view of the world gives us western readers a quick overview of the four different Japanese words for space called tokoro (所), ma (間), wa (和) and ba (場), providing a very different and therefore very interesting thinking about this topic. Not only but especially for designers an article worth reading.
¹ If you want to learn more about the Japanese concepts mentioned, I recommend the following books as an entry point:
- Wabi Sabi: Japanese Wisdom for a Perfectly Imperfect Life by Beth Kempton
- The Little Book of Ikigai: The secret Japanese way to live a happy and long life by Ken Mogi
- Shikake: The Japanese Art of Shaping Behavior Through Design by Naohiro Matsumura
»If the Lasso way is wrong, it’s hard to imagine being right.«
Thanks to the many streaming services producing original shows for their programs, we are living in the golden era of TV series. Large-scale projects with a ludicrous production value and great writing à la ‘The Mandalorian’, ‘Dark’, ‘Mr. Robot’, ‘The Witcher’, ‘Mindhunter’, ‘Black Mirror’ or ‘Stranger Things’ used to be very rare back in the days of classic television, let alone the exceptional niche projects like ‘Love Death + Robots‘, ‘Abstract’ or Bo Burnham’s ‘Inside‘. [the last not being a series, I know, but can’t mention this marvelous piece of art often enough]
By contrast, there hasn’t been much original comedic content I’ve gotten really enthusiastic about from those services —besides some of the Netflix stand-up specials and maybe ‘How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast)’. That being said, it’s great to have wide access to the beloved sitcoms initially produced for television, such as ‘Modern Family’, ‘Life In Pieces’, ‘Community’ and the best sitcom of all time –and one of my favourite series altogether– ‘Scrubs’.
Only recently I became aware of a new show developed by its creator Bill Lawrence –for Apple’s streaming service, unfortunately– called Ted Lasso. It’s centered around a pre-existing character, which was created by Jason Sudeikis over a decade ago for a stage program and later adapted for a series of promotional clips from broadcaster NBC Sports, before it became the lead character in the show of the same name in 2020.
Its underlying story is quickly summarized: Rebecca Welton hires American Football coach Ted Lasso to train her football –being soccer, not the American sport– club ‘AFC Richmond’ so that he’d fail miserably and ruin the Premier League team in the long run. In doing so she hopes to get revenge on her cheating ex-husband, who previously owned the club and still is very attached to it.
Ted : Guys have underestimated me my entire life and for years I never understood why —it used to really bother me. But then one day I was driving my little boy to school and I saw a quote by Walt Whitman, it was painted on the wall and it said, ‘Be curious, not judgmental.’ I like that. So I get back in my car and I’m driving to work and all of the sudden it hits me —all them fellas that used to belittle me, not a single one of them was curious. You know, they thought they had everything figured out so they judged everything and they judged everyone. And I realized that their underestimating me —who I was had nothing to do with it. Because if they were curious they would have asked questions.
At its core, the story follows the fish-out-of-water narrative, poking fun at some of the cultural differences between America and England along the way —the mismatch in language being a constant source for gags for example. As a matter of fact, one might hear the premise and brush aside Ted Lasso for simply being a classical underdog sports story, but just like ‘Scrubs’ wasn’t a hospital series in the first place, there’s no need to be interested in soccer at all to enjoy this show.
Both series use their setting merely as a vehicle to touch on essential topics like anxiety and loss, struggle and success, belonging and purpose, and, above all, human relationships —be it of romantic or professional nature, friendship or family ties. They are entertaining comedies at heart and very funny at that, but both manage to balance out the easy-going laughs with some heartfelt drama more effortless than any other series I know of. Lawrence is able to make you literally laugh out loud on some silly nonsense, just to tug at your heartstrings a few scenes later or hit you hard with some inspiring life advice every now and then.
In a ‘Sesame Street’ themed episode during the last season of ‘Scrubs’ [S8 E5; My ABC’s] its protagonist Dr. John ‘J.D.’ Dorian contemplates about the famous children’s series, but to me, the bottom line has always applied to ‘Scrubs’ itself, too, and it holds true to Ted Lasso just the same:
J.D. : And then I realised why I thought about Sesame Street all day. In a way, you can learn everything you have to know from watching it as a kid. Like, always play nice, always try your hardest and even, it’s okay to cry.
Another strength of Ted Lasso –besides its amazing writing– is the quality of its ensemble. It’s an absolute joy to watch Sudeikis embody the relentlessly optimistic, almost annoyingly positive coach with unexpected depth. Thanks to him the series is upbeat and brim-full of frenetic energy without ever losing the human touch.
And from Lasso on down, there’s a roster of great figures with personalities and interesting character arcs throughout the seasons. The entire cast through to the supporting actors is terrific, bringing grandiose chemistry onto the screen.
On Friday the final episode of the second season dropped and I’m really curious how the confirmed third season is going to wrap up the loose story threads we are left with right now. But I’m pretty optimistic, that Ted Lasso is going to join ‘Scrubs’ for my favourite series of all time eventually.
An old friend of mine, a journalist, once said that paradise on earth was to work all day alone in anticipation of an evening in interesting company.
Revisiting one of europe’s biggest festivals of creativity during a global pandemic
About six years ago I stumbled upon the OFFF Festival for the very first time. I honestly can’t remember if my wife and I were planning to visit Barcelona again anyway –after our prior trip during La Mercè in 2013– or if the festival itself was the reason to return to Catalonia in the first place. Either way, the years thereafter I made sure to rush for a so-called ‘super early bird ticket’ as soon as they dropped –a year in advance– and then planned a vacation around the date of the event only much later.
Three years in a row I marvelled several of my design heroes and discovered the stunning work of a myriad of creatives previously unknown to me. Buzzing with sheer creativity the festival to me always has been an inspiring melange of motivation (»that shit is fucking amazing, now THAT’S why I want to work in the creative industry in the first place!«) and disillusionment (»that shit is fucking amazing, why is my stuff not THAT great?«), sending me back home with the strong urge to learn more and create better time after time.
In combination with the wonderful Museu del Disseny the festival takes place at, the beloved city of Barcelona all around and the beautiful beaches of Sitges nearby, I found it to be the perfect way to regenerate and recharge my creative batteries. As a consequence, my rather random first attendance at OFFF became a tradition near and dear to my heart and a holiday trip I looked forward to full of joy beforehand every year.